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Brittle cracks fall dessert menus

Comfort food adds playfulness and crunch to sweet dishes

Brittle is joining the ranks of such memory-evoking comfort foods as mac and cheese, s’mores and hamburgers as chefs craft menus that help customers find their happy place in these troubled times.

These days the traditional comfort food candy is adding both crunch and playfulness to desserts. For example, Melissa Perello makes a traditional peanut brittle for her restaurant Frances in San Francisco.

At Co Co. Sala in Washington, D.C., chef Santosh Tiptur uses peanut brittle to add texture to a parfait that layers milk chocolate and peanut butter mousse, chocolate cake, strawberry marmalade and caramelized compote along with pieces of peanut brittle.

At Napa Valley Grille in Westwood Village, Calif., pastry chef Manuel Ortega chops peanut brittle and sprinkles it over his peanut butter brownie sandwich.

“It’s a soft-baked, huge brownie that has a peanut butter center,” Ortega said. “We serve these warm, covered in caramel sauce, chocolate fondue and a vanilla gelato.

“The crunch of the brittle next to the soft cold creamy gelato and the gooey warm chocolate and peanut butter is delicious,” he said.

This fall a variety of nuts and seeds are finding their way into housemade brittle. Michael’s in New York serves hazelnut brittle with chocolate mousse, while C-House in Chicago offers a choice of pistachio brittle or spicy pecan pralines — which are fundamentally the same thing.

Pistachio brittle also is what pastry chef Ashley Jenkin serves at Eight K in Snowmass, Colo., sprinkling it over cheesecake that also is accompanied by goat cheese and a blueberry fritter.

Pepita — or pumpkin seed — brittle is served at Little Dom’s in Los Angeles flavored with cinnamon, cayenne and ground cloves.

Pepita brittle also is combined with pumpkin and butterscotch crème and spiced birch ice cream at the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago.

It accompanies carrot cake and pumpkin ice cream at Firefly in Washington, D.C., where chef Danny Bortnick also makes a peanut praline that he crumbles over a chocolate and peanut butter ice cream sandwich.

At the Morrison House, also in Washington, chef Dennis Marron prepares a graham cracker brittle that he serves with brûlée marshmallow, chocolate fondue and banana.

Finally, at the Castle Hill Inn in Newport, R.I., panna cotta made from local ricotta cheese is served with olive oil cake, figs, apples, orange gastrique and a small rectangle of walnut brittle.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected].

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